League of Legends: Maxlore reaps rewards after adjusting approach

Misfits Gaming jungler Nubar "Maxlore" Sarafian shares a laugh during setups for his team's League of Legends European Championship match on Saturday in Berlin. Provided by Riot Games

Structure is all Misfits Gaming needed to get back on track.

With several experts billing the League of Legends European Championship squad as a super team, the roster faced high expectations from inside and outside going into the spring split. Those expectations soared even higher after the team went on a three-game win streak to start the season, but a 1-5 slump and a four-game losing streak followed.

The situation led to Hussain "Moose" Moosvi's return as the team's interim head coach and to Misfits' sweeping its LEC matches in Week 6. Suddenly, the team has shown promise again. At 6-6, Misfits are in a tie for fifth with SK Gaming and Origen.

"The loss streak was mainly us not playing as a team," jungler Nubar "Maxlore" Sarafin said.

Misfits Gaming made several high-profile changes in the 2018 offseason. Former Kingzone DragonX support Kang "GorillA" Beom-hyeon brought some South Korean skill to the squad. Fabian "Febiven" Diepstraten returned to Europe after a stint with Clutch Gaming in North America. Veteran top laner Paul "sOAZ" Boyer came over from world championship runner-up Fnatic.

That talent had plenty of potential but took time to gel. Misfits had five players with different ideas of how to best play the game.

"Having so many perspectives can be a double-edged sword," Maxlore said. "It's a lot of information and a lot of stuff to learn. However, if at the end of the day the things that I have been told conflict with each other, I have to choose one, or the coaching staff steps in and asserts, 'This is what we're going to do.' Choosing one and everyone respecting that decision is super important, and that's not what we did the past few weeks compared to this week. Hussain helped a decent amount with that."

Maxlore saw the early challenges as yet another learning experience in a career dating to his days in the Challenger scene.

Back then, he learned that his strength, in-game communication, was a prized commodity in the competitive scene. In fact, Misfits Gaming signed him for that reason in 2017, and he rewarded them with a world championship run for the ages, including a narrow quarterfinal exit against the dynastic SK Telecom T1 that sent shockwaves through the competitive circuit at the time.

Maxlore would not meet the same level of success in 2018. The team failed to reach the playoffs in the spring split and despite a 9-0 start to the summer season missed the world championship after losing in the regional gauntlet.

Those results, Maxlore said, made him question his "way of living life." However, he managed to move forward and turn the disappointment into another teaching moment.

"As a human being, I'm pretty emotional," Maxlore said. "Last year I played very selfishly, and I didn't know as much about lanes as I do now, especially with the Korean style of jungling and how they see weaknesses and strengths in a composition and how to play around that. Also, how to play around pushing lanes or lanes getting pushed in."

Former SK Telecom T1 assistant coach Lee "PoohManDu" Jeong-hyeon helped Maxlore reshape his approach to League of Legends. He also learned to be more assertive outside of Summoner's Rift and improve his communication with his teammates.

"Generally, my knowledge of the game has only been increasing," he said. "Every season, I try to push myself instead of staying to the information I know, to try to adapt and change my playstyle or change the way I see things. I believe that's the way to reach the best, to be ever adaptable. You challenge yourself every day, and hopefully the outcome is you learning."

That growth has come with some dips in individual performance in favor of supporting the team. Maxlore's gold differential and experience differential in the first 10 minutes have dipped, but his teammates have been able to rely on him at all stages of the game.

All the Misfits need to succeed from here, Maxlore said, is to continue communicating -- and, of course, learning.

"We just have to tackle the different playstyles, the different views," he said. "But we all need to be on the same page. That's what's important."

Misfits' focus has shifted to improvement rather than meeting expectations. Whether they will win the split, go to worlds or flop is anyone's guess. But Maxlore has no doubt that positive results will come despite the super team's struggles.

"I came to the realization myself that I ended up subconsciously, without me knowing, setting expectations," the jungler said, "and that created frustrations toward myself or toward how we're doing as a team. I came about it the wrong way, and it didn't help with my improvement at all or the team's."